You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap.
Last week, the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent reported on their tour of Washington D.C., Baltimore, Jackson, MS., Chicago and New York City. They determined what people of color and social justice advocates already know: African Americans continue to face inequality, barriers to education and health care, and death at the hands of the state.
Common Dreams reported that the five-member working group says they are "extremely concerned about the human rights situation of African Americans” and determined that they deserve reparatory justice.
The human rights advocate leading the working group is quoted as saying:
"Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, ideology ensuring the domination of one group over another continues to negatively impact the civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of African Americans today.”
Obviously, there’s no easy policy fix, law, or organizational plan that can move us in the right direction by itself. But a new plan out from The Annie E. Casey Foundation reported on at Colorlines looks like a great place to start. “Investing in Tomorrow: Helping Families Build Savings and Assets” seeks to close the gap between median net worth for white households and households of color; currently, white households have more than ten times the assets of their black and latino peers at 47% of adults do not have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency, leaving them constantly vulnerable.
At AECF.org, the Annie E. Casey Foundation provides ways to get involved with helping those in your community who need access to helpful services, advocate with your state-level legislators on implementing these policies, and — of course — share the well-designed graphics and information on social media to raise awareness and put pressure on candidates and legislators.
The four recommendations of the “Investing in Tomorrow” initiative are:
- Raise asset limits for public benefit programs
- Provide portable, safe accounts for retirement and emergency savings
- Expand access to home ownership
- Create savings accounts that help build wealth from birth
The top one — raising the asset limits for public benefit programs — is a great action item to raise with candidates and legislators because it doesn’t require new infrastructure and has very simple talking points. As Best of the Left social media/activism director Katie Klabusich found out the hard way last year, people utilizing public programs like food stamps are penalized if they own literally anything — a car, a house, a computer — and they’re expected to drain any savings and cash on hand they might have before qualifying. Since writing about her experience, she’s heard from people all over the country who ended up in a poverty cycle because they could never set anything aside to change their longterm circumstances without forfeiting eligibility to programs that are supposedly to help people get on their feet.
We've created the cycle of dependence that the right-wing rails about — not because assistance makes people lazy, but because we don't allow people to rebuild. Allowing people who experience losses like job layoffs to get assistance without having to move and sell assets that are more expensive to replace than keep as well as reducing the barriers to initially qualifying would go a long way to making our safety net safe and empowering people — especially those who face systemic discrimination and injustice.
Click on the orange “Investing in Tomorrow” tab at ACEF.org to get involved in your state and use OpenStates.org to find and contact your state reps about implementing some or all of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s policy recommendations.
"Could These Four Policy Changes Close the Racial Wealth Gap?” at Colorlines.org
"The U.S. Supreme Court Barely Saves the Fair Housing Act” at The Atlantic
"Ending the Cycle of Racial Isolation” at The New York Times
“Segregation Now: Investigating America’s Racial Divide” at ProPublica
Hear the segment in context:
Episode #987 "The double helix of racial and economic inequality"
Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich